2 years ago a group of engineers working for Samsung got the opportunity to work on a project of their own choosing. Their goal was to create a wearable system that could detect the early signs of a stroke. This month they revealed a working prototype of their solution, the Early Detection System and Algorithm Package. This solution contains a powerful array of sensors, as well as an algorithm to interpret the data. This can be used as an early warning system to let someone know if they need to visit their doctor.
A stroke is what you call it when a small blood clot makes its way into the tiny blood vessels in the brain and gets stuck. Once those tiny vessels are blocked, blood flow to part of the brain stops and that part of the brain can be permanently damaged if not treated quickly. With quick treatment, medications can dissolve the clot and return the person to their normal life. Without treatment, people can be disabled for the remainder of their life or die.
"We approached neurologists, asking them whether this was feasible," said the project's leader, Se-hoon Lim. "They were dismissive, but we wanted to give it a go." Not only is this device easy to wear, but also it can perform the task of brainwave-monitoring devices in hospitals much faster, while still providing "comprehensive detail." Of course, this is still in the R&D phase, but the uses for the tech aren't limited to just taking a look at the brain. "We're now also looking at what EDSAP can do with the heart," Lim added.
The current headset model is designed to communicate with a smartphone or tablet to give users a convenient and familiar interface for examining results. If this technology can ultimately become a set of small, easily hidden sensors for long-term wear, it's possible that we may even receive warning notifications on our phones as soon as a red flag is detected. It sounds pretty cool, albeit a little creepy... annnnnnnd, pretty depressing.
The sensor called as Early Detection Sensor and Algorithm Package (EDSAP) are placed on a headset, collecting and wirelessly transmitting brainwave data to a mobile app, where the algorithm analyzes the brainwaves and ultimately determines the likelihood of a stroke, all within a 60-second time span. Additionally, by tracking brainwaves for longer durations, EDSAP can leverage its brainwave analysis capabilities to provide additional information related to neurological health, such as stress, anxiety and sleep patterns.
The team plans to extend the functionality of EDSAP to detect other neurological conditions like depression, but the possibilities are seemingly endless. Of course, the technology can also be applied to other parts of the body, particularly the heart. Lim is already looking into using the sensor array to produce electrocardiograms. Since the electrical pulses from a heartbeat are substantially stronger and even easier to record than brainwaves, it should be simple to apply the same mechanics.
Samsung is surely eager to see EDSAP mature – this technology will result in a whole new product line and countless high value patents. Still, it's inspiring to see that we're not far away from a technology that may be able to save millions of people from one of the most catastrophic medical conditions known to our species, particularly one that doctors can usually prevent with a little warning. The implications to healthcare and the medical field are pretty huge.